BookingTimes Blog

COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on service-based industries. With many countries requiring quarantine or imposing mandatory closures of businesses, the impact is being felt across businesses small and large.

Here are some of the best strategies that BookingTimes clients are using to make the best of the bad situation.

 

“Communication is Key” - Email Communication and Customer Outreach

Put yourself in the shoes of your clients.  They probably don’t know if you’re staying open or if you’ve closed.  And if you are open, then they’d like to know the measures that you’re taking to keep them (and your staff) healthy. 

Here’s a few ideas: 

  • Update your website with any local updates. 
  • Send emails letting everyone know your status. 
  • Tell customers how you are handling things and how that impacts them.  
  • Text all cancellations immediately (to staff and customers).  

Last week, BookingTimes clients sent out over half a million emails to their customers.  The emails simply stated that: 

  • Services are continuing. 
  • Highlighting the disinfecting process between clients. 
  • Offering free cancellations for anyone who may be experiencing any flu symptoms. 

 Not only does this strategy keep their customers fully aware of their status, but it also builds trust & goodwill.

 

“Stay Accessible” - Online Bookings and Remote Business Management

Similarly to communicating your hygiene standards, being transparent about your availability and allowing your customers to book, pay and manage bookings online means that people feel confident to make an appointment without having to ring and check if you’re open.  

It’s also a good time for those home-based & mobile services as customers won’t have to enter the public realm and make contact with undesirable germs. 

For those offering services at a business location,  make sure that you manage the customer overlap and give yourself ample time to clean your equipment, surfaces, etc, in between customers.  

 Additionally, having a central, online booking system allows your employees to do everything from home.  Remember, you need to take care of your employees who take care of your customers.

 

“Look Forward” - Gift Cards For Future Use

Wuhan (ground zero) has seen already its first COVID-free days! 

Many people are happy to hunker down during community isolation and spend their days watching Netflix. 

 As a business owner, you’ll also want to find some easy wins (even in a shutdown) to ensure the continuity of your business and staff. Unless you can get some toilet paper to sell at a huge markup today, the next best thing would be to pre-sell some gift cards for your services.

If you offer a discount (and that’s going to be important in the upcoming weeks/months), you’ll be able to have some income now, PLUS some momentum after the lockdown ceases. Despite the heavy atmosphere surrounding COVID-19 as a service based industry owner, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. With a little skill, tactical strategy, and social responsibility - we will all get through this - and we are in it together.

Read More Comments

Are you missing out on repeat business?

Why you should add Memberships and Subscriptions to your massage business.

Contact Us

Most small to medium-sized businesses know that the cost of customer acquisition can often make or break you, and as the old adage goes, “It’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new one.” But finding new and creative ways to retain a customer can often be limited by the capacity of your staff to keep track of every historical booking of every customer, and be aware of any extended gaps in their services. BookingTimes offers a solution to both tracking activities as well as customer retention.

Memberships guarantee recurring revenue (predictability)

Do you know what the beauty of a business with online components is? You can use the tools in your website to generate reliable recurring revenue each month. By removing the anxiety that comes with uncertainty in your operation, making decisions for growth becomes much easier! The best thing you can do for your business is to maximize your returns on existing customers by creating recurring billable services through subscriptions.  Keep them coming back for more with a monthly membership; an example may include one massage a month, plus the option to book in for more massages as a discounted rate (available for members only). Consider adding membership-only specials to get them back in a second time that month, or to get your clients buzzing to all their friends and neighbors about your fantastic services, add a referral bonus points program! If they cannot come in for a certain month, consider a rollover service that bumps out their membership by an additional month for unused services.

Subscription services

Entice your members with subscription packages to skincare products, cosmetics or other boutique items. Get those extras flying off the shelves! Alternatively, you could allow their bonus points to roll into a payout for these extras as well. Alternatively, memberships/subscriptions could also cover facials and other spa services. It all depends on what your specific business offers. The options are endless! Consider a customizable experience for your best customers – the ones who already know and love your services!

Mix and Match Packages

Speaking of customizable services, you could put together different package levels of memberships to include a one hour massage, a facial and a sauna (customize according to your specific offerings) so you can upsell the client into a higher package for a very lovely, relaxing monthly outing!

Avoid the waiting period

Create upsell opportunities via other products

Offer other products at a small discount for members only, such as gift cards, retail items or special services.

Membership doesn’t have to mean discount

Membership price structuring is completely up to you! While establishing pricing models, you should take into consideration the return on your initial investment of acquisition and offer incentives. However, sometimes consistently providing the services to your customers is enough to incentivize them to come back. No discount necessary.  BookingTimes has innovative solutions for your business needs, customized to your specifications. Make the most of your online tools by utilizing these features to keep your existing customers coming back for more, month after month.

Read More Comments

Running your own business can be overwhelming, adding the complexity of managing multiple schedules of driving instructors can be daunting. There are so many decisions that need to be made. Taxes that need to be filed. Websites to update. Schedules and appointments to keep track of. It can often feel like there’s just too much for one person to do and guess what, you’re right! Why reinvent the wheel when you can outsource some of this work to others in a thoughtful, easy to use system?

When it comes to choosing a platform to support your growing driving school, there are many things to consider preliminary; 

  • How much does it cost? 
  • Will they support my expanding business?
  • How easy is it to set up and learn?
  • Will it contribute to or hurt my SEO?
  • Who owns my data if I use this software?
  • What will this software DO for me? 
  • How will this software make my life easier?
  • Is it worth the money, time and effort of setting up?
  • If I run into trouble, is someone there to help me?
  • Is there an app for that?
  • What do other businesses think of it?

Take a few minutes to also consider some things that are less obvious. How will the software platform assist you if you’re planning to expand your business into new service areas? Is it easy to setup/alter your existing platform? Does the software account for driving time between Drive School appointments?

Write a list of your pain points with your current system, even if you are not using official software, whatever method of organization you’re using probably has some pain points that your new software should address. The software you choose should be fully customizable and tailored to what makes YOUR life easier. 

If you hire contractors, how simple is it to generate 1099s for them during tax season? How easy is it to generate revenue reports, or split commissions between different people?

Here is a list of strategic functionalities that will be pertinent when making your final software decision:

  • Travel times between lessons
  • Contractor management 
  • Business Expansion
  • Zone Allocation management
  • Built-in Suite of Reporting Tools to answer questions like how much you made last quarter, what is your current booking volume and much more.
  • Marketing tools such as MailChimp extensions, Twilio, Constant Contact, CRMs, Rep. Management so that you’re actively reaching out and generating contact with potential customers. 
  • Any particular pain points that your current system isn’t handling well.

 

Discuss this list with the software sales team. If they don’t have a solution for you built into their platform, it’s time to move to the next platform!

BookingTimes is a customizable platform that’s truly adaptable to your unique needs. With many features such as appointment bookings, SMS text message reminders for your clients, streamlined invoicing and backend reporting.

P.S. BookingTimes carries all of this functionality. Our Business-In-A-Box model is fully customizable and tailored to your specific needs. Not sure about something in particular? Just ask, our responsive team of in house developers are capable of anything!

Read More Comments

Payment Options

One of the highlights when running a business is getting paid.  You walk a little taller with a little more confidence that the latest business decisions you made were on target.

Getting paid over the internet used to be really difficult. PayPal initially made huge steps in online payments but it takes consumers off to their own website so you're no longer in control of the buying experience.  It's like shopping for shoes and then having to go to the bank to direct transfer the money across.

We've used a number of online payment providers over the years, but after frequently seeing the regular onboarding process take 6+ weeks it was time to look elsewhere.

 

New Payment Provider - Stripe

Stripe Payments

Stripe's biggest advantage is that you can get an account and start charging credit cards in nearly any currency within 10 minutes.

Gone are the weeks of business audits and account restrictions.  If you're in business, they'll payments for you and deliver them to your business account in 2 days.

Additionally, BookingTimes integrates directly with Stripe so you never have to leave your website to process payments for your cart, bookings or sales transactions.

For more information, go to Stripe.com

 

Buy Now Pay Later - zipPay

zipPay Payments

For a long time, many "buy now, pay later" services haven't supported service based business.  Apparently, it's easier to go and confiscate the clothes that someone has bought if the client hasn't made any payments. 

The good news is, that you don't need to worry about that.  zipPay will let you offer a "buy now, pay later" option when people purchase your services.  zipPay is a digital wallet (an online credit card) which will let you sell your big ticket items and give your customers the ability to pay it off over time.  They're not charged any interest, upfront payments or fees (unless they miss a payment).

We've integrated this with our shopping cart which means you can sell products, packages and gift vouchers.  We're looking to incorporate zipPay with our online bookings screen in 2018.

To apply, go to zipPay.com.au

Alternate Payment Providers (Australia Only)

It would be remiss to cover our other online payment providers.  

NAB Transact is still remains the cheapest payment provider for large volumes of transactions at 1.5% plus 30c per transaction. They have a monthly minimum fee of $30 / month.

SecurePay by Australia post has no monthly fees and charge a flat 2.4% on every transaction.

eWAY also has no monthly fees and charges 1.9% plus 20c.  They can take a long time to process your application if you're not keeping on top of the process.

Read More Comments

One of my favorite things to do is to talk to other business owners.  I'm always looking at why some businesses are more successful than others.

I've got 3 essential rules on how to reach your success.

1. Define Success

I grew up thinking success was to be like Michael Jackson who would come home to his Neverland Ranch complete with tigers, monkeys and all kinds of exotic things.

After finishing school and university, I thought success was running up the corporate ladder and becoming more and more involved in the design and management.

And then I thought...the story will just go on and on forever.

So you need to define what success looks like for you.  What are you aiming for?  Goals like "more business" is really not motivational and won't create any kind of lasting impact on you.

You'll find a much more concrete foundation by saying "I want to be the premier service for X by making a measurable difference in those people's lives".  At least, that's what makes me feel good.

An easy way to determine if you're on the right track to defining success would be to ask yourself "if I told my parents about my goal, would they tell their friends?" And once you reach success, will your definition change?

Success is really the goal of why you got into business in the first place.  It's why you get up in the morning and where you're headed.

Aim high!  You may still miss the target, but at least you won't shoot your foot off.

2. Aim for the Target

Once the target has been identified, most people struggle to stay on target.  If you've ever driven a boat, you have both the waves and wind continually pushing you off course.  You're frequently tuning your direction.

One anxious journey, storm clouds completely removed all the landmarks and mountains out of our visibility and all we saw was the ocean and had absolutely no sense of direction.

We'd accidentally left the GPS at home, and didn't think we needed to go back for it.  What I would have given for even a compass!!

If you have a rock solid vision of what success is, you aim for it.  You take the hits from the wind and waves, you correct and keep aiming for your goal.

It doesn't really matter if you think you can or can't achieve it.  If you commit yourself to the target, you will get there. But if your target keeps moving, you'll never be able to build anything substantial because you'll be continually starting from scratch to hit the latest target.

3. Do the Work

There's thousands of moving parts in a business, and to be good at business, you need to do all of it.

That's not going to happen overnight, and you shouldn't feel bad about it taking so long.

When I left school, I joined the army and remember going on all night marches with my pack on my back and rifle in hand.  There was no color to the scenery at night, just 100's of shades of grey.  I was always waiting for the cut scene where after 10 seconds of walking, the scene would change and I would be at the destination - it never happened!  

A 50km journey is really a journey of 65,000 steps that you take, one at a time.  But you'll never arrive at your 50km destination unless you take each step sequentially.  You have to keep walking and eventually, you arrive.  

All business owners are busy trying to find enough hours in the day.  Hire some help if you need it.  Get a casual or virtual assistant if you can't afford (or need) someone full time.  Your primary goal is to do all the work required to move the needle to achieving your success (see point #1) and then keep making sure taking steps efficiently.  No point scaling walls if you can just walk around it.

That said, don't burn people along the way.  Achieving success in business should never be at the expense of your relationships or reputation.  If you're doing those things, you're doing it wrong.

Conclusion

You can do it.  Never sell yourself short.  When you dig deep, you find a well of talent and resilience that you didn't even know existed.  You can do the impossible.  As Audrey Hepburn once said: "Nothing is impossible.  The word itself says I'm possible".

Define your target, aim and stay on your target, and then do whatever you need to do, to go out and reach success.

Read More Comments

Do you feel like you always miss out on sales at Christmas time because you run a service based business that doesn't have any products to sell for Christmas.  Many people are also winding down for the holidays and spending all their time doing Christmas shopping making it a slow season.

Here's 3 great techniques that you can use to enable your business to shine over the Christmas period when you don't have products.

1. Gift Vouchers

Create prepaid vouchers that people can redeem for your services.  Voila, you have just turned your services into a marketable product.

There's a numerous ways you can do this.  You could whip up some vouchers or buy some from your newsagent.  However, you don't want to come across as just flogging a product to increase your sales...it's Christmas. 

Here's some ideas on how build rapport and loyalty to get more out of your vouchers than just sales:

  • Sell them to your best and most loyal customers who are always telling their friends about your business (or who want to show their friends just how good it is).  By doing a great job for their friends, you most loyal clients become even more loyal and will buy more for other friends next year.
  • Write a personal message on the voucher.  That way, people are more likely to buy because they know that you care about helping them to give a nice present.
  • Sell a book of vouchers for a slightly discounted rate.  If you sell a book of 5, they'll give it to 5 people and you'll hopefully get 5 new clients - all while having people thank you for your offering.

2. Christmas Specials

According to ASIC, Australians spend roughly $1,079 at Christmas with many loading up the credit card.  If your business is slowing down, it means that people may simply be redirecting their money to buying gifts.

If it's slowing down, why not run a Christmas special?  It could be a small service offering and for only a specified date range.

There's 3 great angles that this works on:

  1. Your regular clients who are short on money will happily book in - because they're getting a discount!
  2. People who've wanted to book in but wanted a cheaper price to try out your services will book in.
  3. Most importantly, it gives you something to market.  Something to put in front of people and say "hey, I made this discount, will you consider using my services".  More on this in the next section.

Test it out and see if it works for your business.

3. Marketing

Christmas is the time when people expect to be marketed to.  We WANT to be marketed to.  I love scuba diving and I WANT the scuba diving company to send me their best specials so I can show my wife what a great special it is and that she gets my not-so subtle hints on what would make a great Christmas present.

So if you are going to sell Christmas Vouchers OR to are having a Christmas Special, you've just created yourself a marketable event that you can:

  • Email to people
  • Put up on social media (Facebook, Google+ etc) 
  • Put up on your website. 

Having something that is marketable is MUCH more powerful than putting up a picture of Santa on Facebook and wishing people Merry Christmas.

Marketing gives people a reason to visit your website - because you're now helping them to buy a gift or get a discount.  Even telling them your Christmas operating hours is helping them to pre-plan their time before and after your holidays!

How BookingTimes does Vouchers

Maybe you'd like to see how BookingTimes lets businesses sell vouchers and gift vouchers at Christmas through their website and how people redeem them.

 

Read More Comments

Google released a massive shift to it's search algorith last Tuesday that gives mobile-friendly websites a massive boost in it's mobile search results.

On the surface, you may think "that won't affect me", what you may not realise is that approximately half of all searches are now conducted on mobile phones.  So the impact can be a MASSIVE gain or a massive detriment to gaining clients.  The change was so big, that Google even notified webmasters that it was coming!

When you do upgrade, Google's search results now display the tag "Mobile-friendly" increasing the likelihood that potential browsers will choose to read your mobile-friendly website over your competitors. 

Also, if 50% of traffic of people are searching for your business on their phone, you can also safely assume that 50% of people are reading your website on their phone as well - and if it's hard to read, they'll probably go elsewhere which isn't great news for your business.  You want to catch your customers before they head to someone else's website.

Google has also published a tool so you can work out how mobile-friendly your website is: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly

In summary, it's a perfect time catch the winds of Google change by upgrading your website to be mobile-friendly to quickly increase your market share while your competitors drag their heels.

PS. All BookingTimes websites are mobile-friendly and rank well on Google desktop and Google mobile searches.

Read More Comments

People want you to have an online presence

Each week, I talk to many people about website development and I've found that there's a lot of confusion out there regarding what a website actually is. 

Some people have an online directory listing similar to the Yellow Pages and call that their website.  Some have a Facebook page and others have an email contact form and say that they offer "online appointments".

In reality, your website is the focal point for advertising your services AND interacting with your clients.

The other avenues are important, but they should be used to point customers to your website.  Once they're on your website, that's where the potential exists to turn them from browsers into people making appointments. 

1. Make Sure You Can Update It

There's plenty of people around who'll give you website and then tell you that you need to email them to make changes on your behalf.  You need to be in control of your own content and be able to change it on a whim. 

If the process is too hard to make changes, then you'll get weary of the process and stop making the necessary changes meaning it's not the right type of website for you.

You want your website to be showcasing your latest information, services, pricing, staff listings etc, so that your customers know what you offer. 

Remember, the first place most of your customers look to find information about you is online.

2. It Must Showcase All Of Your Information

Your business needs to show ALL of your information - don't even think of getting a website deal where you get 8 website pages for $x,xxx.

You need to be able to show:

  • An introduction to your business.
  • A list of your services.
  • Detailed information about each service - including prices
  • Information about you and other staff members.
  • Your business address(es) with maps.
  • Most importantly - Your contact information!

The more information you have online, the more that you will build trust with potential clients enabling you to convert them into clients.

Again, these things change so you need to be able to update these things on a whim.

3. Ensure It Has a Blog

Google's search engine loooooves blogs and so should you.  Google sees that your website is being updated regularly and it's one powerful way that you can get repeat visitors to your site - oh yes, Google's tracking how many people repeatedly visit your site too which also helps boost your Google rankings. 

While blogging probably isn't your favourite past-time, it's a great way to communicate with your clients and give them useful information.  It lets you showcase any events that you might be running and even the latest healthy snack recipes that you've found.

I'm hearing you say "You can put all that information into Facebook".  That's true, however, your audience is going to be limited to those who have liked your page and subscribed to your feed and Google will add your Facebook feed to your search engine results. 

The best way is to put it into your blog, then add your blog link to Facebook.  If you do it regularly (even once per month), then you'll start ranking in Google and get some initial traffic from Facebook.

4. Email Collection

Many people won't buy or make an appointment from your website the first time they visit your website.  Most will never actually come back to your website.

One way to get them back is to collect their email so you can follow up their website visit.

To do this, you either have a blog that they subscribe to, or better still, offer them something free like an eBook in exchange for their name and email address.

This does sound a bit daunting if you don't have a website, but once you have a website, this is something that you'll find invaluable to getting new clients.

5. Offer Online Appointments

Let me start by saying that an online contact form is NOT offering appointments online.  It's just a contact form.  Behind the scenes, it sends you an email saying "Fred Smith wants an appointment between 10am-12pm.  Please contact him tomorrow morning when you start your day".

If a potential customer comes to your website at 12am, they're looking then and there for an appointment and if they leave your website, then unless they come back and revisit your website page, you've lost them forever.

The best way to ensure that you've given yourself the maximum opportunity to convert your visitors into paying clients is to offer those visitors the opportunity to book your services online.

6. On-Going Support

Many website development companies take your money upfront and then once they've delivered your website, they leave alone and never talk to you again.

You should make sure that you can contact them and that they offer you on-going support for your website.  Having bugs in your website will drive away customers and make you crazy.

7. Make Sure It's Simple To Use

Way back in the day of Nokia and Panasonic mobile phones, Nokia became a world-leader while Panasonic fizzled.  I had to fix my grandmother's Panasonic phone and I couldn't figure it out.  The menus were hard to navigate and functions weren't were I expected them to be.  I gave up and went back to my Nokia.

The same goes for your website.  If it's hard to navigate, functions in strange places, then it's going to turn people away and you'll be frustrated.

Turning hard concepts into simple software is actually reflective of a good quality website.  Google is a great example of something incredibly complex under the surface into something so simple that anyone can use.

8. Ensure You Can Tweak The Technicals

Even if you don't know a website's technicals, at some point, you will need to be able to (or have the developer) alter the underlying technical abilities of your website. 

Some examples may be to have your site integrate a third-party online application such as MailChimp, PayPal etc.

You'll not want this when you initially get your website, but it's important to note that your business will change overtime and you may need to adjust the underlying technical structure of your website to support your business changes.

9. Buy From A Reputable Source

I appreciate that your nephew's second cousin will build you a free website aka fancy online brochure

We're talking about your livelihood here.  You wouldn't get them to build you a massage table or write your nutritional programs.

Your website is a key component to your business and you need someone who understands what things are important to business (your business) and can help you achieve measurable results.

 

If my blog post has helped you in any way, please like and leave a comment below :)

Read More Comments

One of my recent undertakings is to swim 30 laps at the local pool.  I don't particularly like using up valuable time to do exercise, however, it's incredibly refreshing and there's plenty of time to think about things while following a thin black line.

I've been getting much fitter and I've been noticing a regular improvement in my endurance and speed.  Not to mention that I can now do tumble turns at the end of each lap!

As I was pondering on my improvement and admiring my own prowess in the pool, I thought "I'm doing so fine, that obviously someone is going to notice my fine form, my fast speeds, my flawless technique and then meet me at the end of a lap and sign me up to the Olympic team."  I was a little disappointed that they weren't there when I finished.

Similarly, I used to sing in the shower when I was a teenager.  The acoustics were wonderful and I knew that if the right person heard me through the bathroom window, they'd sign me up straight away with a record deal!  I'm sure they knocked, but I didn't hear the door because I was in the shower.

What's going on!!  I had the talent *cough cough* but there was no traction.

I pondered this and realised.  If you I want to go to the Olympics, you have to enter swimming competitions.  If you want get a record deal, you need a band and you then go and submit your music to a record label.

Rather than waiting to be discovered, go and place yourself into the same location as those who can help you achieve your goals.  You need to be around the selectors doing what you do, to be able to achieve your goals.

You can't stay at home and expect people to hear you from the bathroom, or be at the swimming pool to find a selector. 

Here's some ways to be around your clients:

  • Email them.
  • Write them a blog article that would help them in their day-to-day activities.
  • Send them a text message saying happy birthday.
  • Ask them if any of their friends would be interested in your services.
  • Give them a fridge magnet.
  • Follow them up if they don't have another appointment - this shows that you care.
  • Remember their name.

By changing what you do today, will ensure that you have a better destination from yesterday.

Read More Comments

 

I was reading some of Seth Godin's material today about how when someone takes an idea from someone else, it's not stolen but it grows. We all benefit from ideas that grow. An example he used was nobody knows how to make a computer mouse. You at least need a metallurgist, a plastics expert, a technical engineer and a software developer to make all the individual pieces before it's even assembled. It's the connection of all of those people that bring value to the customer.

Our businesses are based on the same principles. We have suppliers, accountants, book keepers, tax agents, couriers, landlords etc. We coordinate all of these all working parts before we can even open our doors.

But we then stumble on building customer connection.

I admit, I go to the same hairdresser - even though I don't get the greatest hair cut in the world. I could go somewhere cheaper and get a haircut of the same quality. I go to her because she remembers my name and the name of my kids.

My favourite shop in the world is a florist at Daisy Hill...and I'm a guy who used to buy flowers from the supermarket!! But I love going to this one specific florist not simply because she has good flowers, but she tells me about looking after her parent's gigantic dog and what's going on in her life. I always leave her shop feeling good - and I don't even like flowers!

I think that says a lot about how you build your small business. Yes, your service needs to be of good quality, but more importantly, you need to build connection to your customers. The service you provide may help them feel better and more normal, but the way you spend time building your connection with them is what makes them feel good. They will walk out remembering how you made them feel. If they felt uncomfortable, rushed or disconnected, those feelings will override the quality service that you provided them.

Keep working on building those connections. You'll fail sometimes and other times you'll kick massive goals. There's no book to teach you how to do this. You need to learn what works for you - give it your own flavour. You'll be kicking goals in no time.

Read More Comments